This Section was Donated by Pivot Legal Society

Adult-oriented performers
– Entertainers who perform adult dramatic, artistic or other types of adult-oriented activities, as defined by the Liquor Control and Licensing Act of British Columbia

Age of Consent – See section above titled “Consent and the law.” Although there are many exceptions, the law states that it is illegal for an adult to have sex with a person who is under 16 years of age.

Anonymous HIV testing – This form of testing is anonymous because a number is used in place of your name on your blood sample and test results. The testing centre or clinic keeps none of your information on file and there is no way that number can be linked back to you. ‘Confidential’ testing means that the lab identifies you by a number while your doctor uses your real name and has your information on file. Doctors must keep your information secret, though they report positive test results to the government and could be required to testify in court.

Appearance notice – A form the police will give you if you are arrested on the street but aren’t taken to the police station. It will tell you what you are charged with and when you have to appear in court.

Arrest – Police can only arrest you if you are doing something illegal, or if they have a good reason to think you are or are going to do something illegal, or if they have a warrant from a judge based on something they think you did previously. The police are required to tell you that you are under arrest, but you do not have to talk to them and have a right to stay silent and speak to a lawyer.

Bad Date – A violent, aggressive or otherwise offensive experience with a client of a sex worker. This could include clients who rob or refuse to pay sex workers.

Bad Date Sheet – A flyer that contains the details of violent incidents and offenders in order to let other sex workers know who to watch out for. Reports usually include the place, date and time the incident occurred, as well as a description of the client and his vehicle. These sheets are distributed through community organizations and sex workers themselves.

Bail – A certain amount of money that you might be required to pay in order to be released after arrest, to ensure you show up for court. Often bail is set if you are facing a serious charge, or didn’t show up previously. The person who signs the form agreeing they will pay the bail is called your surety*.

Bail hearing (or ‘show cause’ hearing) – A court appearance where a judge decides whether you should be released or kept in jail, allowed bail or given conditions. You might be more likely to be released if you have children in your care, haven’t been arrested before, or have a steady job. You might be more likely to be held in custody if you are a danger to the public, have a long criminal record, or they think you might not show up to court.

Bawdy-House – See section above titled “The Law and Sex Work”. A bawdy-house is defined in the Criminal Code as anyplace used ‘for the purpose of prostitution or the practice of acts of indecency.’ This means a brothel or any place used regularly by one or more people, including a hotel room, your home, or even the same parking lot.

Bench warrant – A bench warrant is an order from a judge that directs police to arrest someone, for example, if they did not show up for court.

British Columbia Human Rights Code – Provincial legislation in British Columbia protecting individuals from discrimination based on group characteristics in the public sphere, such as in employment, public services, and accommodations, purchase of property, and tenancy.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – A bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada which guarantees certain political and civil rights to everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all levels of government.

Canadian Human Rights Act – Federal legislation in Canada that protects individuals from discrimination in the public sphere based on a listed group of characteristics

Cause – A legitimate reason, for example theft, for terminating someone’s employment

Charge – An official accusation that you did something illegal. There are three kinds of offences you can be ‘charged’ with: hybrid, indictable, and summary.

Charge screening sheet – A form the police give you when you are charged with a crime. If you apply for Legal Aid you will need this form.

Child, Family and Community Service Act – The law in British Columbia that allows the Ministry of Children and Family Development social workers to investigate problems in families and look out for children. It is under this law that children can be taken from families if they are at risk of being hurt or neglected. If a person is under 18 years old they can be held in custody under this Act.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada – A department of the Federal Government in Canada which links immigration services with citizenship registration and provides information on becoming a citizen of Canada, immigrating or working temporarily. See

Claim – When someone sues someone else, it is a document explaining why this person feels they are owed money.

Community Legal Clinics – Clinics that offer free legal assistance. There are many that provide services to many different people and deal with different areas of the law.

Community Service Order (CSO) – If you are found guilty of a crime, the judge could order you to complete a certain number of hours of volunteer work instead of sending you to jail. Someone at the organization where you volunteer keeps track of the hours you complete and signs your papers. If you do not complete the hours you could be sent to jail.

Community standards of tolerance – What the community would find it acceptable for other members of the community to do or see, taking into account the possible harmfulness or anti-social behaviour that could result from viewing or participating in the act, as well as the circumstances. Used to determine what constitutes an ‘indecent act’ or ‘obscene materials.’

Complainant – The person who was the victim of an alleged offence. Sometimes the police are the complainant, making a complaint in your name, even if you do not agree.

Conditions (bail & parole) – These are rules that a judge or parole board may set for you to follow. If you break these rules, you could be sent to jail or back to jail if you are on parole. These often include curfews, “no-go zones,” prohibitions on drugs or alcohol, or orders to avoid certain people.

Conditional discharge – If you are convicted of a crime you can be given a conditional discharge which means you are given a set or rules (conditions) you must follow, instead of a fine or jail time. You may have to work with a probation officer. If you break these conditions you can be sent to jail, or have to pay a fine.

Consent – Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Consent to sexual activity is required and cannot be inferred or assumed. Consent cannot be given by someone under 12 years old and special rules apply to minors under 18 years of age. See “Age of Consent*.”

Constitution of Canada – The supreme law in Canada which outlines the countries system of government and the civil rights of all Canadian citizens.

Contempt of Court – Disrespect shown to the Judge or court in any way. This could be being disorderly, not obeying the judge, not showing up for a court case or being disruptive in some way. This is a crime and you can be punished for it.

Contract – A legally enforceable promise or agreement between two or more persons for the exchange of goods and services entered into intentionally and voluntarily

Controlled Drugs – These are drugs listed under the Food and Drug Act which are for medical purposes but may also be sold illegally. These include amphetamines, barbiturates, and steroids.

Conviction – Being found guilty of breaking a law by a judge or a jury in court.

Counts – The number of times you are accused of breaking the law in the same charge.

Criminal record – A criminal record is an official record of all convictions registered against you. Serious offences can only be removed by applying for a pardon while more minor offences are removed automatically after a certain amount of time. With a criminal record you cannot get a job that requires you to be bonded, you cannot work in the field of law, you may not be allowed to stay in Canada if you are not a Canadian citizen and you may not be able to travel internationally. Your criminal record can also effect the length and severity of sentencing for new crimes.

Criminalization – Turning an activity into a criminal offence by making it illegal or turning a person into a criminal by making an activity they engage in into a criminal offence.

Crown attorney/prosecutor – A lawyer who works for and represents the provincial or federal government in criminal trials.

Defendant – The person who a charge is laid against or a lawsuit is filed against.

Detained – Keep someone in official custody, without arresting them, typically to question them about a crime. If you are being detained you cannot leave. You should identify yourself (to avoid being taken in for them to establish your identity) but you can still say “No” to being searched.

Disclosure – Information that the crown lawyers give to you or your lawyer that explains the evidence against you. It can come a bit at a time but the trial will only occur after full disclosure. (Also see HIV disclosure*.)

Discrimination – Any differential treatment, whether in the form of harassment, unequal pay for the same or similar work, hate propaganda etc. Discrimination is when an individual, or a group of individuals, have been singled out and treated adversely or different from others due to group characteristics such as race, colour, religious belief, or sexual orientation.

Dismissing a charge – When a judge decides that a charge will be dropped.

Dungeon – A place where consenting adults engage in BDSM or fetish activities, usually for money, often without penetrative sex.

Duty Counsel – These are people who have an office in the courthouse and who are paid by Legal Aid to help you find a lawyer, apply for legal aid and start the process. They do not give legal advice but are helpful.

Employment Contract – An agreement between an employer and employee which describes the conditions of employment such as wages, payment details, hours, duties, holiday, and sick day allowances, pension plan details or other deductions, termination notice times, and post-employment regulations. These conditions must be in line with those stated in the Employment Standards Act to be valid.

Employment Standards Act – Legislation in British Columbia which regulates practices around hiring, working conditions, hours, wages, treatment of employees by employers and termination, and protects employees.

Enterprise Crime – A type of crime that involves making money. If you are found guilty of an ‘enterprise crime,’ under section 462.3 which includes procuring, trafficking, fraud, extortion, forgery etc, your property and assets could be seized if the judge believed they were purchased with the proceeds of crime. Police aren’t allowed to damage your possessions and must keep a list of what is seized. A forfeiture hearing will be held to determine if anything will be returned to you. It is illegal to try to hide or give away your property to avoid it being seized and you could receive a fine or jail time.

Entrapment – A legal term used in the United States, meaning being tricked into committing a crime by the police so they can charge you. In Canada this can only be used as a defence if a police officer acts in such a way that it influences you to commit a crime you never would have in normal circumstances.

Escort – An escort is a person, usually a woman, who is hired to provide social company, though escort services, agencies and advertisements often act as covers for individuals to engage in sex work.

Evidence – This is any information used to try and prove your guilt or innocence of a charge. Physical evidence is things like fingerprints, drugs, or blood samples. Circumstantial evidence shows how the situation creates the possibility that you committed the crime, such as being in the area, knowing other people involved etc. Evidence is inadmissible in court if it is not collected in the correct way or if police violated your rights when it was collected.

Exotic dancers – Entertainers who do not necessarily take their clothes off during a performance, as defined by the Liquor Control and Licensing Act of British Columbia

Extortion – The crime of threatening someone, often with violence, to get them to do something for you including pay you money.

Failure to Appear – This refers to the illegal act of not showing up when required in court. A bench warrant can be issued for your arrest if you do not show up for court.

Fine – An amount of money you are ordered to pay if you are given a ticket or are convicted of an offence.

Fraud – Scamming, lying or tricking someone to profit from it in some way.

Garnishment – If you are ordered by the court to pay someone money you owe them, this process is when it is taken a little at a time directly from your paycheck. Often used for owed child support.

Ground of discrimination – Under the Canadian Human Rights Act public entities cannot discriminate based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status and family status, disability or a conviction that has been pardoned.

Half-way house – A place where people can be housed after being released from jail to integrate them back into the community.

HIV disclosure – Telling someone (a sexual partner or drug user you share needles with) that you are or are not HIV positive/ have AIDS.

Human Trafficking – Human trafficking involves forcibly moving people across national or provincial borders in order to exploit them as manual labourers or forced sex workers.

Human Rights – Basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.

Hybrid offences – Crimes that can be classified as indictable or summary, depending on the crown attorney’s decision.

Indecent Act – This term is not exactly defined. What is an indecent act is decided in court based on community standards of tolerance*, or what the community would find it acceptable for other members of the community to do or see, taking into account the possible harmfulness or anti-social behaviour that could result from viewing or participating in the act, as well as the circumstances.

Indictable offences – These are more serious offences. These offences can lead to longer jails terms and higher fines. If you are accused of an indictable offence you will be fingerprinted have your photograph taken, will be held and may have to apply for bail. You must wait longer and apply to have indictable offences removed from your record.

Information – An information is swearing an oath about evidence in order to bring it to small claims or family court or to press criminal charges.

Investigation – An effort by police to see if the law is being broken. This can involve one or many officers, surveillance, searches and stops, or obtaining warrants to listen to phone conversations or search your home.

Justice of the Peace – Someone appointed by the court to do some of the work that judges do.

Labour market opinion – Employers may be required to obtain a labour market opinion from Human Resources and Social Development Canada to hire foreign workers in Canada. It shows that there is a need for the foreign worker to fill the job the employer is offering and that there is no Canadian worker available to do the job.

Lawful excuse – Some crimes state that you can be charged unless you have a ‘lawful excuse’ to be doing that illegal thing. This means a legally valid reason. For example, it is illegal to be found in a bawdy-house, but if you were there delivering a pizza you are not charged.

Legal aid – A government program that provides funding and guidance for people facing serious charges who cannot afford a lawyer.

Notice – Letting someone know ahead of time. Regarding employment, it means letting your employer or employee know a certain amount ahead of time that the employment contract will be ending. Regarding housing, it means letting a landlord or tenant know a certain amount of time ahead that the rental agreement will be ending.

Notice of motion – Written notice given by your lawyer to another party that you intend to argue or present a certain motion in court.

Obstruct (police or justice) – To obstruct is to get in the way of. Criminal Code Sections 129 and 139 make it illegal to get in the way of police or the courts doing their job. This could include giving false information, lying about ones name etc.

Occupational disease – A disease incurred or contracted through or as a result of one’s employment.

Outstanding charges – These are charges that are still pending because you have not yet had a trial, or you did not show up for your court date.

Parole– This is the period of time when you are released before the end of a jail term because of good behaviour. Often parole comes with conditions that must be followed or parole will be revoked.

Peace bond – This is a court order you can request to keep a person away from you for a year if they have hurt or threatened you in the past. You lay an information about your reasons why this is required. This person is not charged with a crime and a peace bond does not go on their criminal record. If they break the order, you may contact the police and that person may be jailed or fined.

Perjury – Lying in court in any way. Section 136 of the Criminal Code states this is an indictable offence that can result in up to 14 years in jail.

Plea – This is your statement of whether you are guilty or not guilty of whatever you are charged with.

Plea bargaining – The discussion that occurs if you are charged with more than one offence. The crown might offer to drop some charges if you agree to plead guilty to other charges.

Possession – Defined in the Criminal Code as having ‘it in his personal possession or knowingly i) has it in the actual possession or custody of another person, or ii) has it in any place, whether or not that place belongs to or is occupied by him, for the use or benefit of himself or another person; and where one of two or more persons, with knowledge and consent of the rest, has anything in his custody or possession, it shall be deemed to be in the custody and possession of each and all of them.’

Preliminary hearing – Occurs when you are charged with an indictable offence to determine if the evidence against you is good enough to have a trial.

Pre-trial hearing / pre-hearing conference – Involves the judge, the crown, and defence lawyers, and is meant to ensure a fair and speedy trial.

Prior convictions – Often called “priors.” Any convictions on your criminal record.

Probation – An order by a judge or parole board if you are out of jail early. It usually involves conditions and a requirement to check in with a probation officer regularly. If these conditions are broken you will be returned to jail.

‘Proceeds of Crime’ – Any property, benefit or advantage, within or outside of Canada, obtained or derived directly or indirectly as a result of the commission of a crime in Canada or crime anywhere that if it occurred in Canada would have been a crime.

Procuring – Inducing or influencing any person to engage in prostitution, also known as ‘pimping’. It can also include referring someone to another sex worker or assisting a sex worker.

Promise to appear – A piece of paper the police give you when you are arrested. It describes what you are charged with, when it occurred, where, who was there and when you have to be in court.

Public place – Anywhere you might be seen. This includes vehicles or private places where you might be seen through a window or open door. Pay phone and cell phone conversations occurring in public places are considered public conversations.

Recklessness – Knowing there is a risk of harm but continuing anyways. This is generally not a defence to criminal acts.

Recognizance – A promise made in court that you will obey an order without having to post bail or put up money.

Registered conviction – A conviction that appears on your criminal record.

Restraining order – An order made by a family court to a spouse or common law partner or to a co-parent of a child to stay away from you and/or your children. You are given a legal document to show police. If the order is broken you must contact police and this person may be jailed or fined. If you do not contact the police the order becomes void.

Restricted drug – Drugs that are illegal and non-medicinal (eg. LSD, speed, mushrooms, MDA, ecstasy) and are listed in the Food and Drug Act (FDA). You can be charged for having or selling these drugs. Other non-medical drugs are prohibited under the Narcotics Control Act.

Retainer – An agreement with a lawyer, usually involving payment, that they will represent you when needed.

Right to counsel – This means that if you are arrested it is your right as a citizen of Canada to be able to speak to a lawyer. A police officer is required to inform you why you are being arrested and that you can contact a lawyer. It does not matter if you cannot afford a lawyer, it is your right to have legal advice.

Search warrant – Permission from a judge for police to search a premises. If a police officer presents you with a warrant, you should demand to see it and read it before you let them in. If the date, time, or address are incorrect you can legally refuse their entry. If you let them in, you may not be able to lay a complaint afterwards.

Self-defence – This is a legal excuse for assaulting or very rarely, killing someone. You can only invoke this defense if you do not use more force than necessary to fend off an attacker and protect yourself. It is unlikely to be valid if you provoked the attack.

Self-induced intoxication – Wilfully choosing to drink alcohol and/or take drugs and become drunk or otherwise intoxicated. This is not a defence to criminal acts.

Sentence – Your sentence is the penalty you are given for having been convicted of breaking a law. It is usually a fine, jail term or some combination of the two. A sentence could also be discharged or suspended.

Sexual assault – The Criminal Code Section 271 describes this as any assault that “violates the sexual integrity of the victim”. Whether the attack is intended to be sexual in nature is irrelevant.

Small claims court – This is where minor disputes over money owing or damages to property are settled. Often this occurs without lawyers.

Strippers – Entertainers who take their clothes off during a performance, as defined by the Liquor Control and Licensing Act of British Columbia

Student legal services (LSLAP) – Free legal services provided by law students who work under the direction of lawyers. In BC this is the Law Students Legal Advice Program run by UBC.

Sentencing Submission(s) – Arguments presented to the court by the defence or the crown about what your sentence should be. It is generally argued that the punishment should fit the crime. If the crown and defense agree, they make a joint-submission which the judge can either agree with or not. Mitigating factors are points that are presented to argue for lighter sentences, and include things like regular employment, no previous criminal involvement, children, and enrollment in drug treatment programs. Aggravating factors are points that may lead to stronger sentences and include past convictions for similar crimes, violence, abuses of power, and victim impact statements.

Subpoena – A written judicial order that requires a person to appear in court at a certain place and time in order to give evidence in a court proceeding as a witness. It may require the person to take the stand and testify personally, or may be required to produce documents related to the court proceeding that she/he possess.

Summary Offences – Less serious offences with lower maximum penalty (fine up to $2,000 or 6 months in jail, or both) and is only tried in Provincial Courts (lowest court). An accused will be given an appearance notice and not taken into custody.

Summons – An official form that accuses you of breaking a law and tells you that if you are guilty you are to pay a fine, or to appear in court to explain yourself if you are not guilty.

Supreme Court of Canada – The highest level of court in the country, operating at the Federal level. BC also has it’s own supreme court. You can appeal a decision in provincial court, up to the BC Supreme Court, and eventually to the Supreme Court of Canada, but they can refuse to hear a case. This court has a panel of judges who can strike down any law that a majority of them believes goes against the Constitution of Canada or violates people’s rights.

Surety – A person who makes sure you will show up for court or follow certain conditions by putting up bail money for you so that you can be released until your trial. If you do not show up for court, this person will have to pay the amount of the bail.

Suspended sentence – Given when you are convicted of a crime and are given a sentence such as jail time or a fine. But it is suspended, so you are not required to go to jail or pay the fine. A conviction does go on your criminal record and you are put on probation.

Sweeps – A police tactic that involves mass arrests, often of sex workers and their customers. It may involve undercover cops posing as sex workers or clients arresting anyone who approaches them.

Temporary Absence Program – A form of parole that involves being released early from jail under certain conditions or into a half-way house.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) – A TRP must be applied for and gives a person permission to live in Canada for a specific period of time. It can be re-issued depending on the person’s situation.

Termination – Ending one’s employment contract by being fired or laid off, by quitting, or by mutually agreeing to discontinue the agreement

Trafficking – The Narcotics Control Act S.2 states that ‘traffic’ means ‘a) to manufacture, sell, give, administer, transport, send, deliver or distribute, or b) to offer to do anything referred to in paragraph a)’ unless you have authority to do so.

Undertaking – A promise that is a sworn oath that you make to a court saying you are going to do something

Unprotected sexual intercourse – Vaginal or anal sex without a condom. If you are HIV+ you are legally required to tell sexual partners before engaging sexual intercourse, especially if unprotected as the risk of transmission is high

Victim impact statement – A statement written and often read by a victim of a crime or a family member of a victim of a crime about the impact the crime had on them. These statements are used by the crown to argue for longer sentences.

Warrant – A document issued by a legal or government official authorizing the police or some other body to make an arrest, search a location, or carry out some other action related to an investigation.

Wilful Blindness – When a person doesn’t ask questions or purposefully does not find out information about something illegal, to try and maintain that they did not know. For example, knowing you are delivering something illegal but not knowing what it is, and not asking or looking in the package. You are just as guilty even if you do not know the particulars.

Wire taps –Devices used to listen to and record phone calls that are used by the police in investigations and as evidence in court. Police must have a warrant as illegally obtained wire tap evidence cannot be used in court.

Work Permit – A work permit must be applied for, usually before entering Canada, and allows you to work in a certain position for a certain employer for a set amount of time without being a citizen.

Worker’s Compensation Act – Legislation in British Columbia about employers insuring their workers so that if someone gets injured at work, or during the course of their job, they will receive monetary compensation or support and varied employment.

Young Offenders Act – These are special Criminal Code laws for youth court that apply to individuals 12 to 17 years of age. These rules include protecting your identity from the press and limiting jail time to 5 years. If you complete your sentence and do not re-offend for 5 years, the offence will not show on your criminal record.

Youth Court – If you are under 18 and are accused of a crime, you go to this court under the Young Offenders Act. If you are accused of a serious crime, and are 14 years or older, you can be tried in adult criminal court and punished as an adult.

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